Tomorrow, November 2nd, was announced a few weeks ago as the day on which construction should start on a new, closed container camp for 1500 people (see our previous post). However, as of today there are still many inhabitants living on the proposed construction site. It remains highly unclear what will happen to them if they don’t move voluntarily. While some have already relocated, a number of those living in the area reject the demand that they move and wish to protest against their eviction.
Below is a statement from one group of residents on their reasons for refusing to leave their homes:
- “Construction of the new camp will be right in the middle of the current camp but it is not a real solution for the problems of refugees.
- The capacity of the new camp is 1500 places which is not sufficient for the refugee population of Calais.
- The place the government has chosen for the construction is not viable to build a camp.
- Decisions taken by the French government are unclear to us.
- The French government forces refugees to evacuate the zone chosen for the construction of the new camp.
Therefore we, the refugees present in this area, refuse to submit to this ingrate politics of anti-solidarity. The day that the government forces us to leave for this construction, that will be the day of our protest.”
French translation of their statement: Continue reading
The Calais jungle may not have more than a few months left. What then?
Back on 31st August, French prime minister Manuel Valls visited Calais and announced his new plan. For the first time since the Sangatte camp was closed in 2003, under pressure from the British government following a right-wing media blitz, there will be again an official refugee camp in Calais. It will have spaces for 1,500 people. Two organisations drew up rival proposals: the Red Cross, which ran Sangatte back in the day, and La Vie Active, which runs the current Jules Ferry day centre.
Now the local Calais press has published the latest news: La Vie Active is the winner. They will build the new camp out of 125 containers. It will be “200 metres from the Jules Ferry day centre, along the Chemin des Dunes”. It’s not 100% clear, but this seems to mean it will be on the site currently taken up by the jungle. The first containers are supposed to be in place in December, although the camp will take some weeks or months to finish.
There are probably over 4000 people living in the jungle at the moment. Numbers continue to grow. 1500 places will not be enough. The current rumour, not confirmed, is that places will only be offered to those who agree to apply for asylum in France and stop trying for England. But what will happen to the other thousands of people?
If the plan was mass deportation, this seems to have failed already: all those recently arrested and threatened with deportation to Sudan, in contravention of European Court of Human Rights judgements, have now been released. Will some of the jungle be allowed to remain next to the official camp? Or will we go back to the old pattern of constant attacks, harassments and evictions, as people without papers are again chased from one squat or makeshift camp to the next?
Another big question is: how will the authorities “persuade” the people now living in the jungle to clear out so they can build the new official camp? This will be far from the first mass eviction in recent Calais history. But it could be on an altogether different scale and intensity from anything seen before.
The statement quoted below was given by the protesters today. They began their sit-in at 11 AM, and are refusing to enter the Jules Ferry center for any of its services. They do not want more humanitarian aid, but rather are demanding their rights to move where they wish and live in dignity where they are.
“There is a big protest happening here at the Salam distribution centre in
the jungle and the government have cut the satellite signal so there can be
People are blockading the government distribution centre because they no
longer want to live in worse conditions than those they left behind. It’s
not enough to receive one badly cooked meal per day. People seeking asylum in
France are being given nothing and forced to live in the jungle. People
have a right to dignity and many people are badly injured and left with no
medical provisions to die in the jungle. La Vie Active who run the Salam
centre profit from justifying people’s prolonged stay in the jungle. Today
the demonstration will continue at the gates of the centre and everyone
informed why and asked not to go inside. If people want to go in they can
and will not be subject to abuse. It is not good enough that racism exists
in the camp and today we are one voice, one hand to stop the injustice of
People of the jungle are not treated as human beings but numbers in system.
We are not allowed the right to protest in the town but hidden away, they
try to silence us. We will not accept this system and we will provide our
own solution. The European governments made this problem and it is their
responsibility to solve it in a way that gives us a better life. We did not
risk our lives to suffer this inhumanity. We must stand together, this
protest is the start and we will continue until our situation is resolved.
We want to remain peaceful even when the police use violence against us.”